By Durgesh Nandan Jha, TNN | Dec 5, 2012, 04.28 AM IST

Four die in ICU of Delhi's trauma centre as oxygen fails

Four die in ICU of Delhi‘s trauma centre as oxygen fails
NEW DELHI: Hours before a mega drill began across the capital to check the city’s preparedness for medical emergencies, four patients in the ICUof the state-run Sushruta Trauma Centre in north Delhi died because the oxygen supply suddenly stopped.

The trauma centre was established in 1998 to provide critical care to victims of serious accidents.

But what happened on Tuesday was critical failure due to sheer negligence. The alarm indicating oxygen supply shutdown went off at 6.40am but the supply could not be restored for 30 minutes — a delay that allegedly led to the death of four of the five patients in the ICU at that time.

The prolonged shutdown happened despite the administration being fully aware of the problem — since it had been recurring for the past few days. In a shocking admission, hospital medical superintendent, DrRicha Dewan, said there was a single, untrained person to manage the oxygen supply in violation of the agreement between the hospital and supplier.

“We have outsourced the gas manifold system to a private contractor which is responsible for maintenance and supervision. As per the contract, there should be at least one technician and a helper but on Monday there was only one person who was not trained to manage oxygen supply,” said Dr Dewan.

‘Malfunction had been on for many days’

Dr Dewan revealed other glaring mistakes in the way oxygen was being supplied.

“The manifold system has two sets of oxygen units consisting of 11 and 10 cylinders. When one set is finished the other automatically resumes supply. But in this case, the technician was running one cylinder at a time which led to the malfunction,” she said, adding that the hospital had registered a police case in the matter. The hospital pays close to Rs 1.5 lakh monthly to the private contractor managing the gas manifold system for maintenance and salary of the technical staff.

However, the city’s medical community felt the hospital too had to take responsibility for the failure, since there was no back up arrangement for oxygen supply.

Dr M C Misra, chief of the AIIMS trauma centre, said deaths due to oxygen supply failure in an ICU setting was unheard of. “Usually there is enough back-up and even if that fails we have ambu-bags to give the patient oxygen support temporarily,” said Misra.

“This is a complete failure of administration. One cannot get away by blaming the technician. Those responsible must be punished appropriately,” said Dr Sushil Sharma, senior orthopedic surgeon at a private hospital.

“There were five patients in the ICU. Of these, Rihana, Javed, Rajkumari and an unidentified man (36 years old) brought by the police died within minutes of the oxygen supply being stopped.

Vikram, another head injury patient, was resuscitated by the attending nurse but his condition is still critical,” said a source. He added that the ventilator alarm went off as the oxygen levels reduced. “I rushed to the ICU on hearing the sound and but the nurse did not let me inside. A few hours later I was informed about my mother’s death,” said Golu, the eldest son of Rajkumari.

According to sources, failure in oxygen supply at the trauma centre had been going on for several days. “At 3am on Tuesday, three hours before the incident took place, another surgery was interrupted due to lack of oxygen supply. We first called the technician and then an OT technician was rushed,” said a doctor.

The families of victims kept protesting outside the hospital all day but they claimed not a single doctor came forward to explain matters. State health minister A K Walia said an FIR is being lodged against the technician who was operating the gas manifold system and a three-member committee headed by special secretary S B Sashank has been formed to investigate the matter. “The enquiry would look into the causes of the incident and would also suggest measures to avoid recurrence of such incidents,” said Walia.

He added that the committee has been directed to submit its report within three days. On Wednesday, Walia has called medical superintendents of state-run hospitals for a review meetin